"Obviously you don't want to be the guy out there who gives up the game, but I kind of feel like today it wasn't about me, it wasn't about anyone else," said right-hander Evan Meek, who allowed a ninth-inning leadoff single to Jose Pirela, with pinch-runner Antoan Richardson moving to second on a sacrifice bunt to set the stage for Jeter.
"It was his day, and it was a great day for baseball. I can either be upset about it or embrace it. What a moment. What a career he's had. It was really an honor and a privilege to just be out there and share the field with him."
Meek, who watched Jeter round first and jump up while a throng of teammates rushed the field, took in the celebration. And he joined numerous Orioles, many who were on the dugout railing clapping as Jeter singled out his divisional foes in his postgame interview.
"I wish the Orioles a lot of luck in the postseason," Jeter said. "They deserve it."
With 48,613 on hand at Yankee Stadium, its largest crowd of the season, the "Jeter" chants were hard to escape, and the enthusiasm mimicked a postseason game. But the Orioles didn't look like a dominant first-place team, committing three errors along with a wild pitch and a passed ball. The O's, who staged a ninth-inning comeback on Jones' two-run homer and Pearce's two-out solo shot, allowed three unearned runs in an ugly seventh inning.
Tied at 2, the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs off O's reliever T.J. McFarland on a passed ball, walk, and a bunt single from No. 9 batter Pirela. The Orioles were able to cut down lead runner Stephen Drew on a fielder's choice before manager Buck Showalter brought on Ryan Webb to face Jeter.
Jeter hit a slow chopper to shortstop J.J. Hardy, whose throw to second base was wide and landed in right field, allowing two runs to score. Brian McCann followed with a sacrifice fly to push New York's lead to three runs.
Staked to a two-run lead early on game-opening homers from Nick Markakis and Alejandro De Aza, Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman gave it right back. After Brett Gardner singled, Jeter -- who narrowly missed a homer -- doubled him in. The Yankees captain stole third and scored on McCann's bouncer to second base, which Kelly Johnson couldn't come up with, marking the first error of the night.
"Those aren't errors we make," Jones said. "We know that. But that happens when you're put in that situation. It's not the end of the world. We've just got to fix it.
The Orioles' sloppy defense cost Gausman an extra inning in Showalter's opinion, and the right-hander -- who settled in nicely after the 35-pitch first -- didn't allow another run over his five frames.
"Two runs [ahead], and I was like, 'This is awesome,'" Gausman said of the atmosphere. "We had a lead at the start, but I give up the hit to Gardner and then really kind of blacked out for that entire at-bat. I was trying to throw perfect pitches, and that's how I got down 3-0 [to Jeter]. I got back into a hitter's count and just left too good a pitch for him. That's why he's been playing the last 20 years."
Kuroda was able to rebound for a longer stay, striking out nine and allowing one single after the first-inning homers over eight dominant frames. The O's offense wouldn't come back alive until David Robertson's blown save, which set up Jeter's heroics.
"Our guys, everybody has a lot of respect for Derek and what his career has been about," Showalter said. "You never like to lose a game, but you try to keep a grip on reality and the whole gamut of it. We wish him well, and I'm sure it was a great moment for him here. And it will be a great moment for us as we go forward to continue to play."